Swiss investigate alleged Turkish attempt to kidnap Gülen-linked businessman

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Switzerland is investigating whether Turkish diplomats planned to drug and kidnap a Swiss-Turkish businessman as part of a crackdown after a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, federal prosecutors said, according to a Reuters report on Wednesday.

The Swiss Tages-Anzeiger daily said one of the two diplomats linked to the plot to snatch the Swiss-based businessman — who was active in the Gülen movement, which Ankara blames for the coup bid — remained at their job in Bern while the other had since returned to Turkey.

“The Office of the Attorney General can confirm that in this context a criminal case is being conducted on suspicion of political intelligence gathering … and prohibited acts for a foreign state,” the OAG said in an emailed statement. The investigation began in March 2017, it added.

The OAG said it had asked the foreign ministry to clarify whether the suspects enjoyed diplomatic immunity now or at the time of the alleged crime. Waiving any immunity was necessary to carry out further investigations, it added.

The Turkish Embassy in Bern did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment from Reuters.

The OAG said a year ago that it had begun a criminal inquiry into possible foreign spying on Switzerland’s Turkish community.

Swiss intelligence got wind of the 2016 kidnapping plot while it was being hatched, Tages-Anzeiger reported, adding that the intended victim remains under police protection.

The military coup attempt killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Amid an ongoing witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Jan. 5 said 48,305 people were jailed in 2017 alone over Gülen movement links.

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